Since 2006 the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) has been supporting creative and innovative library projects throughout Scotland. Starting today, we'll be taking a look at previous award winners on the first Wednesday of every month. Here is Library Operations Manager John Grant talking about the new Cafe Workshop @ Aberdeen Central Library, which has enabled members of the public to explore emerging technologies and the creative arts.
‘When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.’
Helen Keller, American Author
The above quote is an apt way of describing how we felt at Aberdeen Central Library a couple of years ago. Our door of happiness was the Library Café which for several years was our very own Central Perc, serving up real coffee and fresh bakes with a warm smile. When the Café closed we were determined to maintain that focal community feel and realised we had an exciting opportunity to reimagine the space as a hub for digital creativity. This would offer something for everyone and open up the library to new users.
We wanted to provide a place for both children and adults to get creative and decided to establish a dedicated MakerSpace. Thanks to a successful PLIF bid through SLIC we were able to turn our idea into a reality.
The main focus for children has been 3D printing, a Creators Club and, of course, our Code Club, which is now an established weekly event. Using Raspberry Pi-top computers, our intention is to concentrate on Raspbery Pi as our knowledge base and eventually develop crossover construction and electronic projects with the Creators Club using Raspberry Pi microprocessors.
For grown-ups of all ages ‘Tea and Tech’ intergenerational sessions have been delivered by staff who have undergone Training in New Technologies (another PLIF project funded by SLIC) and will also be a regular feature.
Our biggest surprise however, was in the demand for sewing! A craft group had previously met in the Library Café so a number of tutors were commissioned to deliver workshops in art, sewing and textile art for parents and pre-schoolers.
Utilising the sewing machines from our Media and Arts Lending Service, the sewing class was so popular we could have filled it several times over. Some class members brought their own sewing machines but those who wanted to ‘try before you buy’ discovered they could actually borrow a Brother LS14 or a Janome 9300DX Overlocker from the library at the end of the course.
Even when the MakerSpace isn’t being used for workshops or classes it is in demand. As well as making an excellent games area for chess and other board games, it’s been used to host interactive art installations in collaboration with local schools and curated by the City Council’s Creative Learning Team.
With the maker movement gathering pace, it’s becoming widely recognised that libraries can be places not just for reading and learning but also for making and doing. So if you are still thinking about it, go on, open that door.